Portage la Prairie to host curling qualifier

OTTAWA — Canada’s first Olympic mixed doubles curling trials will be held in Portage la Prairie, Man., in early January.

The 18-team competition to determine Canada’s representatives at the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held Jan. 3-7 at Stride Place, Curling Canada said Tuesday in a release.

“This will be an historic event and we’re thrilled to see Portage la Prairie earn the privilege of playing host to the first Canadian Olympic mixed doubles trials,” said Curling Canada chair Peter Inch. “We know the community will embrace this event because we’ve seen Portage la Prairie step up repeatedly in the past for the sport of curling.

“Knowing what’s on the line next January, we’re anticipating a great show in Portage la Prairie.”

Mixed doubles curling will make its Olympic debut at the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Games.

Edmonton’s Joanne Courtney and Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers clinched a berth for Canada with their second-place finish at last week’s world mixed doubles championship in Lethbridge, Alta.

Saskatoon’s Marliese Kasner and Dustin Kalthoff also earned qualification points for Canada with their fifth-place result at the 2016 playdowns in Karlstad, Sweden.

The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — the Olympic trials for traditional four-athlete teams — will be held in early December in Ottawa. Players from winning teams will not be eligible to compete in the mixed doubles trials.

Mixed teams will be split into two pools of nine. Eight teams will advance into modified double-knockout playoffs.

“Our mixed doubles athletes have been working extremely hard in the past few years to make sure we’re at a level to compete for a medal in Pyeongchang,” said Curling Canada national mixed doubles coach Jeff Stoughton. “That hard work will continue as we turn our focus to the Olympic season.”

Seven teams have already qualified for the mixed doubles trials.

The Courtney/Carruthers and Kasner/Kalthoff duos are in along with Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and Calgary’s John Morris, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing of Shanty Bay, Ont., Calgary’s Chelsea Carey and Winnipeg’s Colin Hodgson, Kalynn Virtue of Lethbridge and Calgary’s Charley Thomas, and Ottawa’s Emma Miskew and Tyrel Griffith of Kelowna, B.C.

The remaining 11 teams will be determined from a final regional bonspiel qualifier next fall. If needed, teams from the Canadian mixed doubles rankings list would round out the field.

The 1,675-seat Stride Place is home to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Portage Terriers.

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